AMHPs – who are they and what do they do?

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An Approved Mental Health Professional, or AMHP, is someone who is legally authorised to make decisions and applications under the Mental Health Act 1983. Nine times out of ten they will be a social worker, although they could be psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists or psychologists.

The role of an AMHP sits under a local authority, and at each Mental Health Act assessment there will be an AMHP present to decide whether to act on any recommendations made by the doctor (usually s.12 approved), e.g. if the service user should be detained under the Mental Health Act.

It is a complex and finely balanced decision, and is sometimes made in demanding circumstances, so requires that an AMHP considers all the options and has the service user’s safety in mind at all times.

An AMHP will weigh up the relevant information, along with the interview with the service user, knowledge of their story, and the views of the assessing team and the Nearest Relative. They will also consider the least restrictive options, if any intervention has worked well in the past, and then come to their own decision, having taken into consideration all circumstances of the case.

If a hospital admission is required, the AMHP will generally coordinate this in line with local arrangements. If the service user has capacity to the admission they may be admitted voluntarily, but if they object to any element of the admission, or lack capacity to consent, then a legal framework to deprive that person of their liberty to provide care and treatment will need to be considered.

AMHPs must coordinate the ambulance service, police and any specialist clinician required for the MHA assessment, all the while using their professional skill to speak to a service user who may be in a distressed state.

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